Trump presidency permanently alters landscape of media

The former president’s massive media impact created a divisive online political atmosphere.

Former President Donald Trump had a complex relationship with the media long before his term. For better or for worse, Trump posted often to Twitter since the creation of his account in 2009, pushing the limits of the platform until he was permanently suspended “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” after the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

The effects of his presidency are not confined to the internet — they continue to ripple out into the spheres of music, art, literature and media as a whole. As President Joe Biden settles into the White House and takes a vastly different approach to the office of the presidency, the world continues to reflect on Trump’s online cult of personality.

It goes without saying that he seemed to prefer Twitter. Trump often criticized mainstream news media as “fake news,” a term that he popularized during his presidency.

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Trump said in a 2018 speech in response to a news story. Regardless of whether his fear of misinformation was warranted, Trump offered a handy alternative news source to anyone who would read it — his Twitter feed.

Former President Barack Obama was the first president to use the @POTUS Twitter handle, but Trump was the first to use a personal account, @realDonaldTrump, for the same executive purposes. This raised questions for Twitter as a platform: is social media a public forum? After Trump wrongly informed the world that he had won the 2020 presidential election and condoned the riots at the Capitol on Twitter, the platform suspended his personal account, creating an eerily quiet online space in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration.

The intentional spread of disinformation online by a U.S. president was certainly an unprecedented act. Moreover, Trump’s supporters perpetuated his content, and not just through retweets.

“Welcome to the Red Kingdom,” rapper Tech N9ne sings on his track “Red Kingdom,” released before the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2019 AFC Championship game. This song, named for the Chiefs’ team colors, was co-opted by teens on TikTok in fall 2020 before the November election. The lyrics symbolized, for some young people, the Republican party’s “red kingdom” of voters, led by Trump.

This wasn’t the only viral TikTok trend popularized by Trump supporters. A video containing an original song, “Real Women Vote Trump,” circulated on the platform around the same time. YG and Nipsey Hussle’s song “FDT” (F--- Donald Trump) made similar waves but never garnered as much TikTok fame as its conservative counterparts.

Within the online sphere, media like visual art and literature have gone viral for criticizing the former president. A slew of performance art pieces mocked Trump during his term: an artist collective imprisoned a Trump impersonator in one of Trump’s hotels, and another installation entitled “Ivanka Vacuuming” featured an Ivanka Trump lookalike vacuuming up crumbs. A particularly scathing piece, “Why I Want to F--- Donald Trump,” depicts the likeness of Trump composed of pornographic images.

Certainly, in the wake of a presidency that culminated in a literal insurrection, many citizens are left wondering, “How did we get here?” But others were sucked into the media vortex created by Trump’s divisive policies, intentional disinformation and crude tweets.

The 2020 presidential election made it clear that we have a political system on our hands with two parties that seem to be drifting further and further apart. Trump’s media habits — both his personal practices and the popular media he inspired — seemed to deepen that rift. The way President Biden interacts with the media and inspires the creation of art, music and other content will be crucial for the reinstallation of democracy as we know it.

Edited by Chloe Konrad | ckonrad@themaneater.com

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